When you say the word gimmick, there often seems to be a negative reaction to the word. To many people a gimmick is what you use when you can’t rely on your own skill to build an audience. While there may be some truth to that thought, gimmicks are not necessarily a bad thing as long as you understand the purpose of it and don’t let them affect your content in a negative way.
So let’s start out by tackling what a gimmick actually is. According to Dictionary.com a gimmick is defined as “an ingenious or novel device, scheme, or stratagem, especially one designed to attract attention or increase appeal.” It’s something that you use to grab the attention of the viewers in your stream, or help you stick out in the sea of thousands of streamers. Think of it as your personal secret stream weapon. Whenever you use it, you’re sure to get your stream excited and engaged. While gimmicks sound like harmless options for your stream, there are some dangers that you need to be aware of.
I’ve always felt that a GOOD gimmick is a great tool for your stream. The problem is that many new streamers just copy and paste a gimmick that has worked for other streamers and hope that they work for their stream as well. I’ve mentioned in previous posts before that Twitch is filled with the copycat mentality. “Hey, this amazing stream idea that I stole from someone else will totally work if I just use it for my stream.” While it can work in some instances, many times it won’t have the same effect. Many gimmicks work because they start out as sincere gestures that people generally enjoy. When you use another person’s idea for your own benefit with no personal attachment to it, your viewers will know.
When I first started streaming Paper Mario there was a lot of downtime during cutscenes. (Thank you glitch finders for making this happen less!) To fill the void of one particular cutscene I started singing an old school song called Old Man River that I knew growing up. The chat immediately loved the rendition and it soon became a tradition on my stream to sing during that cutscene. It was definitely something that made me stand out from other streamers and many of my viewers have great memories of these moments on my stream. The key to its success was how genuine it was and how focused it was on just having fun.
Another key to a good gimmick is knowing when to stop and move on. While I enjoyed singing Old Man River on my stream often, singing it too often would lead to the fun getting old and the moment not being special anymore. I had to realize that there was a point where I could only sing on certain special occasions to keep that moment from becoming stale. As you grow your stream be aware of this and realize when a gimmick has reached its peak.
One important thing to know about gimmicks is that they are mainly there to attract an audience, not build one. I like to think of gimmicks as a big advertisement to your stream that makes you stick out. Once you’ve attracted viewers to your stream with something, it’s up to you to keep them. At the end of the day it’s your content that will make new viewers follow and come back for more, not your gimmick.
A stream based solely on good gimmicks and nothing else will always bring in new viewers, but you’ll never keep people there. You’ll be constantly rotating new viewers in and out and actual growth won’t happen. Being known for something different is great, but there has to be substance. At the end of the day you have to realize that there are thousands of streamers on Twitch all vying for the same audience that you are after. If you have the greatest sales pitch in the world but no substance, you’ll stay stagnant and never grow.
As Uncle Ben always told me “With great power, comes great responsibility.” Harness the power of gimmicks for good and use them to add to your content, not take away from it.
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